February 24, 2010

Things that Inspire


ps...plan on this post going in a few different directions -- and please please please be patient with me -- the second half of this is particularly important to me.

On the weekend my husband and I watched Invictus. It was a really good movie -- a bit slow, but if you were looking for it, it was inspiring. Nelson Mandela believed that life was meant to be lived fully and that days were not to be wasted. While some felt he over-scheduled, he never wanted to waste a minute. He rose so early in the morning it was still dark out; he exercised daily at this time. He was up until all hours of the night, involved in many different, seemingly unnecessary (though important to him) affairs.

Nelson Mandela's approach reminded me of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, by Benjamin Franklin, which I read in my American Literature class in university...(remember that Beth? do you remember what I said about this particular read? I said the following specifically to you!). I remember coming to class after reading this text both inspired and bothered. I was raised to work hard, but to also rest hard: to lead a meaningful, though balanced life. Franklin believed in never wasting a moment, and ensuring that everyone knew you were constantly working: that is how to be productive (hence his ability to invent such things as the library and volunteer fire hall, bifocals, etc.)...

My university self was a bit bothered by this man's egocentric need to ensure everyone knew he worked hard -- I also noted that all his hard work was very self-involved. He was not really an available family man; though, he did have a family. I thought that that was particularly upsetting: why wasn't he spending his nights with his family? I also thought that he needed to slow down, smell the roses, take some relaxation time. However, aside from his unavailability, the me of today does see some wisdom in the full-day approach to life: we lead such short lives and it's silly to waste them!!!
Being on maternity leave, and adjusting to life with a child has slowed me down...a lot. After dealing with the many sleepless nights, I took advantage of nap-times for my own leisure and refueling. Now that I do sleep through, though, this approach is no longer viable. I am feeling LAZY -- and certainly not using my precious days as well as I should!

After watching Invictus, as well as reading fb posts from my really good friend, and also reading forever-improving girl's blog, I've realized that my love affair with the gym is what I've been missing most in my lazy days. Up until now I'd decided that there was no point to starting an exercise regiment since, once I head back to work, it will be far too stressful to try and keep it up. BUT. Where there's a will, there's a way. And (as Mr. Franklin and Mr. Mandela have reminded me), the most productive people FILL THEIR DAYS FULL...And this is inspiring. Also, once the days are full, they become so much more rewarding. 

Life is simply too precious to waste.

Get Ripped! with Jari Love 

I am now inspired. No more excuses. I no longer have a gym membership and for now, I will be okay with this fact: (I've been a member of several gyms since I was sixteen). But, I will exercise in my basement to a really wonderful Jari Love workout video entitled Get Ripped! with Jari Love. After many years of fitness, I know what it takes to get results in a short amount of time: and the full body workout with weights that this video promotes is what I need. I am tired of making excuses but of also not making the best use of the days I've had. No more couch potato, nappy nappy girl for me! Finally -- I feel I am starting, starting to appreciate every day properly.


I am someone who, once my life starts to take a more positive turn, begins to look for inspiration everywhere: in blogs, in movies, watching my friends...And another inspiring event is unfolding as we speak. My colleague and close friend's baby's first birthday is coming up in less than a week, on March 1st. This is a very special and pivotal event as baby Sofia was born weighing just under five hundred grams, at barely 26 weeks gestation. It was emergency surgery as my friend Sarah had H.E.L.L.P. syndrome and carrying her baby had put her own life in jeopardy. Knowing that Sofia's life was fragile in these first months, I have prayed Sofia would see another day EVERY DAY--and now she will be ONE YEAR OLD!


Both Sarah and I had decided to start trying to conceive at the very same time about three years ago. And we found the road to conception was not as easy as we had planned...We both struggled, though she more than I. However, we did finally conceive (thank God), and she was due three months after me. We went through our pregnancies together, did Yoga, chatted about our dreams and fears of having our first child. 


Then on that fateful day, when I entered the school where we both worked and was told the news of her health and the state of her very premature baby, I cried. I could barely carry on my classes that day. My heart went out to Sarah in a way I don't think anyone will ever understand...And it has continued to be preoccupied with her, Sofia and her husband, Luigi, ever since.

You see, of anyone I know, THEY are the people who inspire me. Not only did Sarah pick herself up post surgery, she stayed positive, knowing that her baby needed her good energy, her strength; she did not stop to notice the trauma her body had just incurred. She did not stop and ask, 'why me?'. She did not waste her tears, or beg others to explain to her how such a difficult thing could have happened to her, her child, her family. No. She realized she was lucky: she had baby Sofia! 

The months ahead were incredibly difficult. Sofia had several illnesses and needed several transfusions. She had to be isolated and protected from all germs. She was on breathing machines, feeding tubes, etc. Being barely a pound at birth, and losing weight post-birth, she was very very fragile.
--Luigi's wedding band around Sofia's wrist.

Every day I waited for good news. And Sarah obliged. She emailed the staff and I regularly. She kept us in the know, (both through email, and on a personal on-line journal). Her messages were always positive: her emails were upbeat and powerful. She inspired me, and she broke my heart, daily. She still does.

Sofia was in the hospital for one hundred and ninety-seven days (I wish I could remember all the details). Sarah and family transitioned to home life in mid September, and life did not get easier. Reflux and feeding issues were a concern, as was any airborne germs as Sofia's lungs were still fragile. The daily grind was busy for Sarah. The setting up of machines, the cleaning and disinfecting, the tube-feeding, the pumping, the regular schedules, etc., were very trying. But she did not complain. She says we all have our struggles when it comes to raising a child. (WOW).

Today Sofia is a strong, seventeen pound gorgeous baby girl. She can sit up on her own; she can jump in her jolly jumper. She is happy. She is on a predictable schedule. She is learning how to eat her solids. 

But more than everything else, Sofia is an inspiration to everyone who knows her. She fought through so many illnesses; underwent countless surgeries; struggled through the pain of reflux; and she came out victorious. (She will likely, one day, be the strongest soccer player on whatever team she chooses). She has the will to live and the fierce love of her mother (and father). She is a lucky girl. And we are all lucky to know her and her parents.

Sarah and her family leave me in awe. Not only has Sarah guided Sofia through all her struggles with positivity and grace, she has managed to keep involved in her own life: visiting friends, going to the gym, etc. She is my inspiration.

More than ever before, I am aware of the inspirations all around me: the strength in my friend, in other women, in myself, is not to be taken for granted. I hope to always appreciate these poignant examples of strength and fulfillment. 

Life is a precious gift. I thank Sarah and her family for reasserting this important fact.

Sofia, Sarah, Luigi: You are my inspiration. You have my heart. You make me want to always strive, to always live every day to its fullest -- and to do so positively and powerfully. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.

I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

Happy Birthday Sofia!


  1. This is such a sweet and inspiring post! By the way, I have to say that I watched Invictus, and as an objective South African, I can say it was beautifully done. I can't think of anyone better to play Mr. Mandela than Morgan Freeman :)

  2. What a heartfelt post your friend and baby have been through so much. Thanks for starting off my day with thoughts of valuing each day. (y husband wants to see Invictus).

  3. Oh my gosh, that is an incredible story. It's amazing to me how heroic "average" people can be in times of crisis, isn't it?

    And good for you for getting back into the routine of working out. It's amazing how much that helps with the post partum funk. I always have to drag myself back to the gym, but once I'm there I finally start to feel like my old self again.

  4. Wow, touching and inspiring. Heroic

  5. Anonymous25.2.10

    197 days.. She's a fighter!

    SB, I've read this about 5 times so far and I bawl my eyes out everytime and then go to Sofia's crib and stare at her sleeping!!

    You've written so eloquently and I sincerely appreciate the time and efforts you took to write and revise! It's amazing and I will add it to Sofia's scrapbook!

    The part that really gets me is:
    "..was told the news of her health and the state of her very premature baby, I cried. I could barely carry on my classes that day. My heart went out to Sarah in a way I don't think anyone will ever understand..."

    Awww, SB, I love you..

    * Looking forward to making up the playdates missed with baby e

  6. Serena,

    That was beautifully told. It's amazing how many people have been positively influenced by Sofia, Sarah and Luigi's journey. I agree, they are an amazing inspiration to all of us. Thank you for writing this ..

    Sofia's Zia Pina :)

  7. Such an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing!

    I now I better go exercise.

  8. Anonymous25.2.10

    S, this was beautiful and inspiring, to an extent I can't begin to express (so I won’t try, but I will address each section briefly because I can’t leave this entry without writing)!

    1.Yes, yes, yes! Ever since I turned 30 I've been obsessed with not wasting a minute of my life (not in a bad way).

    It just occurred to me (not for the first time, but more pressingly and vividly than ever before) how much of our lives we let flit away untasted, unused.

    It’s become so important to me to experience and do as much as I can. When I’m an old woman and become limited in what I can do, I want to be able to look back on a life full of incredible memories.

    2.Whoo! I am so proud of you for getting back into working out. Though I don’t know how you get anything done with the little one – I am filled with endless admiration for you (and all the other mommies I know).

    And *blush* I’m so happy I was able to inspire you in any degree, but as I said before YOU were my original inspiration toward working out (waaaay back when) so in a sense it’s you inspiring you (and I’m just the middlewoman…hehe).

    3.Your friend is truly remarkable, and I’m so glad her story is now such a happy one. It must have been heartbreaking and terrifying and I am so amazed at her strength to get through the hardest times. And, as you wrote, her positive outlook despite adversity. Wow.

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  10. thank you for all your comments - this post was hard to write. I still feel I just couldn't find the exact words and meaning I wanted to convey -- but it was very important for me to write it. Yay Sofia! Yay Sarah!

  11. Oh, my goodness. This completely touched my heart!!!! With my husband gone, I am already sensitive as is!!! Thanks a lot! ;) I'm so happy for your friend and her daughter. It is incredibly inspiring. We often forget how fleeting life is..



Thanks for your thoughts!


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